Slidell officer recognized for help in finding Monette

Going “above and beyond the call of duty” in his work to help find missing teacher Terrilynn Monette on Saturday morning, Slidell police Officer Mark Michaud was honored by Chief Randy Smith and the City Council at its meeting Tuesday night.

Michaud, who heads the Police Department’s dive team, found Monette’s car in Bayou St. John near Harrison Avenue more than three months after she left Parlay’s, a Lakeview bar, early on March 2 and was reported missing.

An autopsy determined that Monette drowned, authorities have said. Toxicology tests are pending.

Monette’s black Honda Accord was found in a spot that search crews had pored over several times, but after speaking with state Rep. Austin Badon, Michaud wanted to try again.

Using sonar equipment, Michaud made the discovery that finally will give Monette’s family closure.

“It’s an honor to be recognized, but this is something that just needed to be done,” said Michaud, who has been diving since 1994. “It was worth it if I could bring just a little bit of peace for her mom and the family. We all want to make a difference, and this was a biggie here.”

Smith reiterated how proud he was of Michaud, saying that “He went above and beyond the call of duty.”

Col. John Thomas, commander of the New Orleans Police Department’s 3rd District, also praised Michaud.

Thomas also thanked the City Council for Slidell’s support and said, “We may have a lake between us, but we’re not that far apart. I’m so grateful we won’t have to wonder any longer where our child is.”

Monette, a teacher at Woodland West Elementary School in Harvey, moved to New Orleans two years ago from Long Beach, Calif., her mother Toni Enclade, has said.

“After about a month, things started slowing down, but (Michaud) never gave up,” Smith said. “His persistence and dedication was exemplary in this case.”

Other items discussed during the meeting included:

EMPLOYEE PAY: Also Tuesday, Rene Johnson, the city’s director of personnel, explained to the council the dire need of a new pay matrix.

The structure has been in place since 2000, and there have been no step increases for city employees since 2007. Although there have been two proposals in 13 years to change the matrix, neither have been implemented because “they were just too expensive,” Johnson said.

With the economy in tough shape, Johnson said the city will have to “bite off the elephant’s head in small bites” to get employees’ pay up to par.

Slidell workers’ pay is “30 percent below the market,” Johnson said, but at least one council member wants to wait until things become a bit more financially stable.

“We just don’t have the money,” said Councilman Buddy Lloyd, who represents District C. “We can’t keep going through this. … No I don’t see this getting better any time soon.”

Former Mayor Sam Caruso, who represents council District E, said in situations such as this, one solution is to explain to employees why they might have to wait a bit longer for an acceptable answer.

“If you say to them there are 27 employees in their office, and we can give them a raise right now, but we can only give it to seven of them, they will understand and can live with that,” he said.